The Biggest Risk of All…


The Biggest Risk of All…

From my Blog, December 2020:

The phrase “In Hoc Anno Domini” refers to the conversion of St. Paul on the road to Damascus. Every year, on Christmas Eve, the Wall Street Journal reprints an editorial under that title written for its pages in 1949 by Vermont Royster. It doesn’t mention Christmas, per se, but is perhaps the most striking Christmas message of all. I recommend it to you.

It tells the story of Saul of Tarsus and his experiences on the road to Damascus.  It reminds us that at that time the entire known world was at peace, but at what cost? There were no wars, the legions were in place to keep order. There was stability, the long arm of Rome and its enforcers ensured that. Sure there was oppression, but you could be spared that if you were friends of Caesar. But the entire world was enslaved. As Royster put it: “What was a man but to serve Caesar?”

There was the persecution of men who dared think differently, who heard strange voices or read strange manuscripts. There was enslavement of men whose tribes came not from Rome, disdain for those who did not have the familiar visage. And most of all, there was everywhere a contempt for human life. What, to the strong, was one man more or less in a crowded world?

Sound familiar? Tyrants have through the ages been enforcing their will on people everywhere. But something was different during the reign of Tiberius Caesar. A presence from Galilee, who preached to his followers for only about three years. A presence that struck so much fear in Rome that the word came out that he must be silenced. And so he was.

But Saul of Tarsus heard his words on that dusty road to Damascus and he was frightened. He knew the power of the dark forces that ruled the land. He feared the return of those forces…

Then might it come to pass that darkness would settle again over the lands and there would be a burning of books, and men would think only of what they should eat and what they should wear, and would give heed only to new Caesars and to false prophets. Then might it come to pass that men would not look upward to see even a winter’s star in the East, and once more, there would be no light at all in the darkness.

And so Paul, the apostle of the Son of Man, spoke to his brethren, the Galatians, the words he would have us remember afterward in each of the years of his Lord:

“Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ has made us free and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.”

At this time of year, all of us at Parking Today wish everyone, Christian and Jew, Muslim and Buddhist, believer and non, a most wonderful, magical, and happy holiday season. Merry Christmas, one and all.

If we don’t take risks, what happens?


All advancements society has made since its beginning have been required risk. Consider some synonyms: danger, hazard, imminence, menace, peril, pitfall, threat, trouble. It sounds like a definition of a horror movie. Perhaps it is.

What happens to society if we become risk averse? What happens if we reach the point where we wrap ourselves in cotton wool and tell ourselves that the only way to live is to have no risk, to rely completely on some central control that ‘fixes’ everything and removes all danger, hazard, peril, pitfall, threat, and trouble from our lives?

When I was in the Army, I felt I was in the center of the risk averse universe. OK, if we had to go into battle, we took tremendous risk, but the rest of the time, there was none. We were told what to wear, where and when and what to eat, when and where to sleep, what movies we could watch, what TV shows to see, when and where to go on vacation. We were told what to buy (at the commissary or PX), when and where to live and when to move. Schools were provided for our kids, and churches in which to worship. We were even told who should be our friends and when and where to play with them.

Except in battle, the military is a risk averse institution, and one that has little creativity, almost no leeway in decision making. There are manuals for everything and ‘leaders’ who ensure you follow them.

Although I enjoyed my three years in the Army, I couldn’t wait to get out. I wanted a life where I could make the decisions, for good or bad, that affected me.

In olden days, there were no ‘safe places’ where I could go to be completely without fear. I rode bicycles without helmets, in cars without seat belts, climbed trees, and fell out of them. My friends and I hiked through the hills filled with ticks, snakes, coyotes, and deep canyons and somehow survived. There was risk with everything we did.

We went through epidemic after epidemic – Polio, swine flu, Asian flu, kids died of measles, whooping cough, smallpox, mumps. I can’t give blood today because I was in the UK during the mad cow crisis. We had depressions, recessions, and survived. Just think of the risk we took going to school when the flu was rampant. We did and survived.

What are we facing now? We are twisting ourselves into pretzels with social distancing, masks, vaccination requirements, and fear of any risk. Each winter since time immemorial we have had flu outbreaks. We all go and get vaccinated to mitigate the risk. Many still get the flu, but it isn’t as bad if you had your shot. You skip the vaccination at your risk. You take the risk. So be it.

We have become so risk averse that we can’t hear about certain beliefs if they don’t agree with us. Words cause us to panic. We reach the point where common sense is replaced with being on high alert over every subject, every minute of the day. After all, if we all believed the same, there would be no risk.

It’s risk that makes life worth living. You find an opportunity; you take a chance. You roll the dice. You swing for the center field fence. Remember who had the most strikeouts. Nothing happens if you don’t take a risk.

The problem I have is that those who make decisions for us, who tell us how we must live, take no risks themselves. They are in positions where they can live as they please, have plenty of money, and if their decisions are wrong, they simply move on, with no consequences.

The rest of us take actual risk, and win or lose, do so with honor. So be it.

I look back on the two pieces above and am struck as to how they seem to come from the same place. Paul took the biggest risk of all. I wonder if he and his creator look to us to continue taking those risks.

Article contributed by:
John Van Horn
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